Court Dismisses Exxon’s Effort to Block Climate Investigation

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In her 48-page opinion, Judge Caproni also waved aside Exxon’s references to Republican attorneys general and members of Congress who attacked the Schneiderman and Healey investigations. If such statements could be considered as evidence worthy of being weighed, she wrote, “law enforcement at the state level will be drawn to a screeching halt by what amounts to a heckler’s veto.”

A spokesman for Exxon, Scott J. Silvestri, said the company officials “are reviewing the judge’s decision and are evaluating our next steps.” He went on to note, “We believe the risk of climate change is real and we want to be part of the solution.”

For many years, however, Exxon attempted to cast doubt on climate science, funding organizations that argued that the science was far less certain than it actually was, even as the company had amassed its own research that pointed to the severity of the problem.

Mr. Schneiderman has said that while his office has examined the past actions, his investigation has focused on more recent statements by Exxon about climate change and what it means for the company’s future.

As for Exxon’s argument that investigators were seeking to violate the company’s rights to freedom of speech, Mr. Schneiderman has repeatedly stated, “The First Amendment doesn’t protect you for fraud.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he was pleased by the judge’s decision to dismiss what he called “Exxon’s frivolous, nonsensical lawsuit.” He pledged that his investigation would continue.

Ms. Healey said the decision was “a turning point in our investigation and a victory for the people.” Calling Exxon’s case “a scorched-earth campaign to avoid answering our basic questions about the company’s awareness of climate change,” she said, “Exxon’s customers and investors deserve answers from the company about what it has known about the impact of burning fossil fuels, and whether it hid this information from the public.”

As for the activists drawn into the case, Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, said: “The judge’s decision underscores that officials working to hold companies accountable for deceiving the public, and citizens working to address the catastrophic climate change Exxon helped cause, is not a conspiracy. It’s an activity as American as baseball, motherhood and apple pie.”

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